9. Lucy Brandon (1882)
by Robert Buchanan (adapted from the novel, Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton).
London: Imperial Theatre. 8 April, 1882 (matinée). After a week of afternoon performances it appears to close on 15 April, 1882 (final Times advert) and is not taken up for an evening run.
(Harriett Jay played the role of Lucy Brandon.)
A letter from Buchanan to The Era (see below) describes problems with the finances of the play, which led to a court case.
The Nottingham Evening Post (5 April, 1882 - p.4)
Mr. Robert Buchanan has written the following lines as a sort of introduction to, and sketch of the plot of “Lucy Brandon”:—
“Hurrah for the Son of the Moonlight!
How merry and bold rides he,
Humming a song as he gallops along,
With his jolly comrades three!
In the shadow dark he halts to hark,
As thither the old coach drives.
Then pistol in hand, he crieth ‘Stand
Your purses or your lives!’
To the coach door now, with princely bow,
He trips right courteouslie,
No thief of the night is so polite
As your Highwayman can be.
Alas for the Son of the Moonlight!
For, close to a lady fair
Who sits in fear as the rogues draw near,
The little blind god sits there—
Unseen, unheard, with never a word
Sits Cupid looking on.
And the robber bold when his gains are told
Finds his own heart is gone!
So gloomy and stern, being robbed in turn,
On the lonely road rides he.
No thief of the night, be sure, is quite
Such a thief as Love can be!”
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (9 April, 1882)
Except in the names of the characters and the leading idea of the regenerating influence of a woman’s pure lover upon a depraved and criminal nature, Mr. Robert Buchanan in his new play, Lucy Brandon, produced here yesterday afternoon, owes little to the late Lord Lytton’s somewhat commonplace novel, “Paul Clifford.” The dramatist declares it to have been his endeavour to elevate the subject of “Paul Clifford,” more especially as regards the love scenes between the bold highwayman and Lucy Brandon. Whatever success has been gained in this way is at the loss of spirit and vigour. The first act has not much of dramatic value, other than the stoppage of Lord Mauleverer’s coach on the highway, with the first meeting of Paul and Lucy. The story is carried on through the second act with the ripening, in the Bath assembly rooms, of the intimacy thus romantically commenced. Later on Paul and his companions, Long Ned and Augustus Tomlinson, engage in a scheme to abduct Lucy, but at the critical moment for action Paul repents his design, and in revenge is wounded by Long Ned. Paul is captured, but escapes from prison, and seeks refuge in Lucy’s room. He repudiates his father, the harsh and unyielding Sir William Brandon, and ultimately receives the king’s pardon. Miss Harriett Jay, as Lucy, was graceful and sympathetic in the quieter scenes, but was wanting in power in the more emotional passages, and Mr. W. Rignold was a robust Clifford, but in other respects than a sturdy bearing, he scarcely realised one’s ideas of the active highwayman. Mrs. Chippendale, as a vain, middle-aged lady, and Mr. Odell as Tomlinson, her pretended admirer, agreeably lightened the serious passages by their amusing impersonations, and Messrs. David Fisher and Nye, as Mauleverer and Long Ned, also efficiently sustained their respective characters. There was plenty of applause throughout, and at the close the author was summoned.
Reynolds’s Newspaper (9 April, 1882)
For a series of afternoon performances this house re-opened yesterday with a romantic drama, written by Mr. Robert Buchanan upon the lines of the late Lord Lytton’s popular novel of “Paul Clifford,” and entitled “Lucy Brandon.” It is in four acts, the scenes of which are laid at “The Cross Roads of Ambleton,” “The Grand Assembly Rooms at Bath,” “Lady Pelham’s Gardens,” and “Lucy Brandon’s Boudoir.” The principal parts are assigned to Miss Harriett Jay (Lucy Brandon), Mr. W. Rignold (Paul Clifford), Mrs. Chippendale (Lady Pelham), Mr. David Fisher (Lord Mauleverer), Messrs. Odell, Thomas Nye, Elmore, and Percy Bell. Neither on the score of morality, novelty of situation, nor beauty of dialogue, can much be said in favour of the new play, albeit it was favourably received by a very full house, and an unanimous call for the author made at its conclusion. The hero is a vulgar cut-purse, given to prosing and using bombastic language, the only redeeming points in whose character are reverence for a mother whom he has never seen, and a wholesome hatred of a father who condemns him to death. The heroine is a young lady whose love gets so much the better of her reason that one feels no more sympathy with her puling affection for the highwayman than one would for a child who cries for the moon; and when, in the end, the King’s pardon sets Paul Clifford free, and she can link her future with his, there is a grim satisfaction in the reflection that such an union will prove the avenging Nemesis of their respective folly and ill-deeds. Mr. William Rignold acted the part of the hero with such energy as to make him as little contemptible as possible; Miss Jay showed but little improvement since she impersonated the unhappy Lady Jane Grey in “A Nine Days’ Queen;” Mrs. Chippendale made the very best of a very indifferent part, and seemed to fill the stage with jollity whenever her buxom face and figure appeared; and Mr. Odell was quaint and amusing as one of the “Sons of the Moonlight.” The other parts were unusually well sustained, and those who had to sermonize in the last act, sermonized with emphasis and clever enunciation.
The Scotsman (10 April, 1882 - p. 5)
“Lucy Brandon,” which was produced at the Imperial Theatre this afternoon, is called a “romantic and poetical drama,” and is founded, as the author, Mr Buchanan, states, upon the late Lord Lytton’s novel of “Paul Clifford.” The plot is certainly romantic enough, but it cannot be said to be particularly interesting. The hero, Paul Clifford, is the captain of a band of highwaymen, who stop a coach and rob a young lady, Miss Brandon, and her friend, Lord Mauleverer. Clifford falls in love with Lucy Brandon on the spot, and then follows her to Bath, where we find him and his companions masquerading as gentlemen, and carrying all before them, after the manner of knights of the road, at the Grand Assembly Rooms. There Paul Clifford wins the love of Lucy Brandon, but at the same time agrees with his accomplices to carry her off, together with all the jewels and booty they can seize in a house to which they have been invited. This vile scheme is defeated, Paul Clifford is shot by one of his companions for betraying them, and then captured by runners from Bow Street. In the next act we find our hero in the condemned cell, whence he escapes by the old device of pinioning Lord Mauleverer, who has come to visit him, and wrapping himself in that personage’s cloak, makes his appearance in Miss Brandon’s boudoir, where he informs the astonished heroine what he has learned from one of his followers in Newgate—viz., that he is the son of Sir William Brandon, the judge who condemned him, and as that individual is her uncle, he is consequently her cousin. In the end this undesirable relative obtains a free pardon, and is to marry Lucy Brandon, a fate that lady has, it seems to us, heartily deserved. The lady is rather a forward heroine, and Paul Clifford is a ranting sentimental robber, who is alternately glorifying a career of murder and theft, and growing maudlin over himself. The play is far too long, and there is too much talk in it, especially in the last act, and it is impossible to sympathise either with the rhetorical robber, or the girl who falls in love with such a showy imposter. Mr W. Rignold did his best with the part of Paul Clifford, and was duly loud mouthed and energetic, but his elocution is susceptible of improvement, and at times he was quite indistinct. Miss Harriett Jay has a good stage presence, and plays carefully and intelligently, but she lacks force and variety, and has yet a great deal to learn before she develops into an actress. The minor parts were well played by Messrs Odell, Percy Bell, David Fisher, and Elmore, while Mrs Chippendale’s airs and graces as an elderly Bath belle were very amusing. The piece was received with many demonstrations of approval from a rather noisy audience of holiday-makers.
The Times (10 April, 1882 - p.8)
On Saturday afternoon, at the Imperial Theatre, Westminster, a new play was produced, written by Mr. Robert Buchanan, and founded on the late Lord Lytton’s novel “Paul Clifford.” The play, which is called Lucy Brandon, is somewhat less unwholesome than the novel, though there is little in situation or dialogue to redeem it from the commonplace. Mr. William Rignold played the highwayman, with tolerable effect, though his acting was somewhat conventional. Miss Harriett Jay made as much out of Lucy Brandon, the heroine, as the part was capable of, and Mr. Odell manifested considerable spirit and humour as Augustus Tomlinson, the highwayman who makes love to and subsequently robs the vain and elderly widow Lady Pelham. The other parts call for no special comment.
The Daily News (10 April, 1882)
It is not easy to imagine Mr. Buchanan’s motive for re-writing the old Coburg melodrama, founded upon the late Lord Lytton’s youthful production, “Paul Clifford.” Sentimental highwaymen, who rail at our social institutions in the intervals of business and enchant the ears of fair ladies while relieving their trembling relatives of watches and purses, have long gone out of fashion on the stage; but even in their best days it was the playwright’s custom to insist much upon those “circumstances” which were assumed to be chiefly responsible for their misdeeds. Thus the “orphan Paul” in Mr. Webster’s adaptation was guilty, in the first instance, of no worse fault than that of incautiously associating, like Mr. Tom Taylor’s ticket-of-leave man, with disreputable companions, and as being arrested for stealing the watch of Squire Brandon, when, in fact, he had been too much absorbed in contemplating the beauty of Brandon’s niece Lucy to be even aware that a robbery was being committed. Suburban playgoers of forty years since were thus artfully moved to much compassion for the innocent accused, and when they learnt how his putative father, who was no other than the Squire himself, had abandoned him in childhood to evil influences, and saw the supposed culprit wrongfully condemned on his father’s evidence, and thenceforth driven to “a life of crime,” the tears of “sensibility” were not withheld. Mr. Buchanan, however, brings his hero on the stage at once a full-blown highwayman and impostor, whose doctrine it is that “all men are thieves, from the common rogue up to the Prime Minister,” and who vainly endeavours to win the sympathies of the spectator by occasional tearful references to a deceased mother. With this vulgar scoundrel we are expected to believe that the gentle heroine falls so violently in love at a chance meeting in the Assembly Rooms at Bath that even the discovery that he is identical with the ruffian who had shortly before stopped her carriage and plundered her affianced suitor, Lord Mauleverer, does not prevent her requesting him to “come to these fond arms.” In a note to the playbill we are told that “an attempt has been made for the first time to elevate the subject, particularly so far as it concerns the love story of Lucy Brandon and Paul Clifford;” and if long harangues concerning fate, free will, and the hypocrisy of society can accomplish this object, the promise may be said to have been fulfilled. Otherwise it is difficult to discover any elevation in the characters, incidents, or dialogue of the ill-constructed and tedious play which Mr. Buchanan presented to the audience of the Imperial Theatre on Saturday afternoon. Nevertheless, we must admit that the performance of “Lucy Brandon” was favourably received. When the criminal hero, in the person of Mr. William Rignold, observed that “after all we are what Heaven made us, and not what we have made ourselves,” the remark appeared to be peculiarly acceptable to several spectators, who exclaimed “Bravo!” from various parts of the house with remarkable energy and promptness. We are bound to add that when, a pardon having been first obtained for the daring and notorious malefactor on the absurd ground of his neglected childhood, the accommodating nobleman, Lord Mauleverer, handed over his affianced bride, the wealthy heiress, to the convicted appropriator of his watch and other valuables, with the full consent of her haughty uncle, the absurdity of the situation was so far from being resented that this dénouement was greeted with much applause, followed by a vociferous demand for the author. It is much to be feared that this sort of success may tend to confirm Mr. Buchanan in that contempt for the intelligence of modern playgoers which can alone explain his choice of this poor and exhausted vein of melodrama, or the total absence from his dialogue of the vigour and freshness which characterise so many of his dramatic stories and ballads. Mr. Rignold’s excessively robust style of elocution and deportment would, no doubt be better suited to the Carl Moors, of the criminal drama, than to the gay and gallant scoundrels of the Captain Macheath type; but no art in the actor could possibly render Mr. Buchanan’s highwayman an interesting personage in the eyes of intelligent spectators; nor could the exertions of Miss Harriett Jay, though she is eminently a pleasing actress, redeem the inherent silliness and insipidity of the heroine. We may note by the way that the plausible sophistry and ostentatious erudition of Augustus Tomlinson have almost entirely disappeared in the hands of the adaptor, whose Tomlinson is simply a grotesque and eccentric personage. Mr. Odell’s performance of this part had, however, a certain audacious oddity about it which afforded some amusement, more particularly in the exaggerated gallantry of his flirtations with Lady Brandon, a part played by Mrs. Chippendale in a broad but effective style of humour which was not less welcome.
The Morning Post (10 April, 1882 - p.2)
On Saturday afternoon a new romantic drama, entitled “Lucy Brandon,” founded on the late Lord Lytton’s novel of “Paul Clifford,” was produced at the Imperial Theatre. The author, Mr. Robert Buchanan, informs us that in this play an attempt has been made for the first time to elevate the subject, particularly so far as it concerns the love story of Lucy Brandon and Paul Clifford, but in this attempt we feel bound to say that the author has been but moderately successful. We failed to see any particular elevation in the scenes between the hero and the heroine, and the play, although not devoid of humorous incident, is not upon the whole of a very striking character. The piece is well mounted, and the dramatis personæ include several experienced and clever actors, who were not wanting in their exertions to ensure the success of Mr. Buchanan’s dramatic effort. The drama is divided into four acts. In the first, in a village on the old Bath road, we see Paul Clifford and his confederates concerting and accomplishing a highway robbery, the victim being an elderly nobleman, Lord Mauleverer, who is escorting Lucy Brandon, the heroine, to the residence of her aunt. Paul protects the lady from the insulting attentions of one of his gang, and hands her politely to her carriage, her beauty and sweet voice producing a deep impression on his mind. In the second act Paul and two of his associates make their appearance at the Bath Assembly Rooms with the object of fascinating and carrying off an heiress whose money is to be divided among the adventurers. Here the hero meets Lucy Brandon, and under the assumed name of Captain Lovel captivates her affection, while his fellow-robber, Augustus Tomlinson, posing as a gentleman of fortune and an amateur physician, flirts with audacious success with Lucy’s aunt, Lady Pelham, a vain and amorous widow. Sir William Brandon, an eminent judge (Lucy’s uncle and Paul Clifford’s father), and Lord Mauleverer, who is a suitor for the lady’s hand, see with displeasure her intimacy with the adventurer, which in the third act, at Lady Pelham’s villa, progresses so far as to result in a mutual declaration of love. In this act we have the best situation of the play. Clifford had determined by persuasion or by force to carry off the heiress, but his conscience is touched by her artless innocence; he renounces his base design, confesses that he is an outlawed highwayman, and implores her pardon. In the meanwhile his confederates have plundered the house, and in hurrying away come upon the lovers. One of the robbers offering rudeness to Miss Brandon is checked by Clifford, and in revenge fires a pistol at his captain, who falls wounded at the moment when a force of Bow-street runners, summoned by Lord Mauleverer, rush in to make him a prisoner. The curtain falls as Lucy is bending over the prostrate form of her lover. In the last act Paul Clifford is seen in gaol. By the aid of his former associates, who are enabled by Miss Brandon’s money to bribe the turnkey, he manages to free himself of his manacles and to escape. He had in the meantime learned the secret of his parentage, and, making his way to Miss Brandon’s boudoir, astounds her by the revelation that he is her cousin and Sir William Brandon’s son. The lady had consented to become Lord Mauleverer’s wife on condition that he should obtain Paul Clifford’s pardon; and while Sir William Brandon was sternly repudiating his relationship to the condemned criminal, the lord, who had been made acquainted with the facts, arrives, and, generously presenting the King’s pardon to Clifford, makes the lovers happy. It will be seen that there is ample scope in the plot for effective incident and interesting dialogue, but Mr. Buchanan has not made the most skilful use of his materials. Mr. Rignold, who personated Paul Clifford, acted spiritedly and well, but the part is not one particularly suited to him. Mrs. Chippendale looked very well as Lady Pelham, and her acting left nothing to be desired. Mr. David Fisher. as Lord Mauleverer, and Mr. Elmore, as Sir William Brandon, were unexceptionable. Miss Harriet Jay, who took the part of Lucy Brandon, was graceful and refined in her style, and showed herself capable of much tenderness and pathos. Mr. Odell was clever and amusing as Augustus Tomlinson, and Mr. Percy Bell deserves commendation for his capital make-up and clever acting in the subordinate part of Dummie Dunnaker, the factotum of the associated highwaymen.
The Daily Telegraph (10 April, 1882 - p.2)
It is to be feared that Mr. Robert Buchanan’s dramatic elevation of the character of Paul Clifford, the gentlemanly highwayman, who was reformed by the power of love, will not meet with the success which should attend work that is both earnest and ambitious. A more tedious and soporific play than “Lucy Brandon,” produced on Saturday afternoon, has seldom been presented even to an indulgent public. For this, however, the author is not wholly responsible; experience—possibly bitter—will teach him that the romantic drama, cast in a literary and poetic mould, is not wholly to the taste of this somewhat frivolous and artificial age, and least of all when it is entrusted to those who are inexperienced in the art of elocution and the method of delivering any form of rhetoric. It would be unfair to pronounce upon the literary merit of Mr. Buchanan’s drama without first consulting the text and mastering his intention. In this case the author must have been unfairly treated by the artists, who were frequently inaudible, and for the most part unfamiliar with the written dialogue. The play was obviously unprepared and ill stage-managed, and the harm that hurry could not do nervousness completed. We do not doubt that Miss Harriett Jay has many qualifications for the stage; a good face full of intelligence, and a pliant figure are amongst them, but much more than this is required to persuade, to influence, and to hold an audience in such a trying character as that of Lucy Brandon. The voice may be good, but untrained; the figure may be graceful, but the movements still awkward; the intention admirable, but the power deficient. It is one thing to read a part and understand it, another to act it. A lamentable want of experience is at the root of the difficulty, but Miss Harriett Jay is not the first lady, and will not be the last, who conceives that actresses are, like poets, born and not made. The play seemed so intolerably tedious, and the poetical periods so protracted; the love scenes so lengthy, and the interest so flat, mainly because the heroine never once got hold of her audience, having no voice to influence and no power to persuade. It was reading and not acting, and depression was the consequence. Though Mr. William Rignold is not so much at home in romantic parts as in those of strong character—as, for example, the ruffianly brother in “The Two Orphans”—he helped the play along to the best of his ability, and certainly looked well enough as the love-stricken highwayman who is the hero of this ill-starred romance. The heroism of Paul Clifford, as put forward for admiration in this play, we fail altogether to appreciate. Having adopted a most iniquitous and murderous calling, allying himself with cutthroats, robbers, and assassins, thinking nothing at all of the value of life or the sacredness of property, he endeavours to shirk the moral responsibility of his obvious guilt by pointing to the fact that a wicked father deserted him when he was an infant. Forgetting that he cut throats, fired at helpless victims, robbed coaches, and continued a pest to society long after he arrived at years of discretion, it is not easy to see how he can claim absolution from his crimes, by discovering in Sir William Brandon the inhuman monster who deserted Paul Clifford and his helpless mother. A highwayman who, like Dick Turpin and many another, gloried in his career is on the whole more entitled to our respect than the whining fellow who urges that a life of sin is due to an accident of birth. That Paul Clifford should be rescued from his evil and indefensible courses by a beautiful woman, and converted to humanity by her gracious presence, is intelligible enough; but the character of a man is not very “elevated” who interprets so literally the text that the sins of the father are visited on the children. Paul Clifford would make us believe that a bad father absorbs the responsibility of a son’s subsequent misdeeds. The plot, as it stands, is extremely simple, far more so than the “Lady of Lyons,” a play which it resembles very much in character. But what would be the dramatic value of Lord Lytton’s other love story, without a Claude Melnotte to woo, and a Pauline to weep her miserable lot! Love scenes that have no heart in them are worse than useless. Mr. David Fisher, as the foppish old Lord Mauleverer, and Mr. Odell, with Mrs. Chippendale, in the only brief comic scenes the play afforded, relieved too seldom the monotony of the afternoon’s entertainment; but if “Lucy Brandon” is ever to attract the public, without prejudice or favour, it must be far better acted and still better rehearsed. The first test was really no test at all, for friends were injudicious enough to make the author believe that his efforts to interest had been successful; that the acting was of more than average merit; and that those who were present had not suffered for some hours in the sacred cause of friendship.
The Pall Mall Gazette (11 April, 1882)
MR. BUCHANAN’S NEW DRAMAS.
OF two dramas by Mr. Robert Buchanan produced on the same day at different theatres, the more successful is that in which the author has gone for his plot outside his own work. “Lucy Brandon,” with which the Imperial recommenced on Saturday last its afternoon performances, is a version of Lord Lytton’s juvenile and morbid novel of “Paul Clifford.” The “Shadow of the Sword,” given in the evening of the same day at the Olympic, is a dramatization of Mr. Buchanan’s powerful romance the name of which it bears. Intrinsically the play last named is the stronger. The satire upon warlike ambition as exemplified in the career of the first Napoleon which animates the novel is stern and impressive, the scenes brought about are dramatic, and the characters participating in the action are natural and lifelike. In spite of treatment which is at once ambitious and inept, the influence of these things makes itself felt in the play. Instead, however, of concentrating the interest in the brave young Breton who, after seeing successive members of his family sacrificed to the lust of conquest, refuses to yield himself to the conscription, and leads for years the life of an outcast and a fugitive, the adapter, whom it is impossible to confound with Mr. Buchanan, has made the story a mere vehicle for spectacle. Sufficiently degrading at any time to work with a claim to literary merit is treatment of this kind. When, however, as in the present instance, the scenic surroundings prove a failure, when visions conjured up before the spectator to illustrate the action refuse to come, when the firework accessories, instead of burning brightly, sputter and fume, and when the entire attempt at illustration proves abortive, a novel may be held to have been subjected to the last indignity. To associate in any way with the author of the original romance the dialogue improvised by the actors in order to afford time for the workmen behind would be signal injustice. It is difficult, indeed, if not impossible, to form any estimate of the dramatic value of the story. To plead as an excuse for failure the influence of holiday festivities is meaningless. The lesson of a collapse such as was witnessed at the Olympic, the most signal that has been seen for years, is that elaborate spectacle is not to be attempted except under conditions that preclude the possibility of failure. Indulgence may be extended to dramatic action with which the unforeseen interferes. A panorama that will not work, however, can scarcely put in a claim upon consideration.
Not too accurately rehearsed had been the simple effects attempted in “Lucy Brandon.” More than once there were pauses in the action that threatened to prove dangerous, and the performance occupied an hour more than was necessary or desirable. Compared with the representation at the Olympic, however, that at the Imperial seemed all that could be desired. The chief sources of weakness in the new piece belong to the character of its action. It is no longer easy to interest the public in the presentation of sentimental criminals. What burlesque has done for melodrama, opéra-bouffe has accomplished for pieces of the class now attempted. Paul Clifford would form a fair hero of comic opera. A trio between the hero and the heroine and Lord Mauleverer, when the carriage of the last-named nobleman is stopped upon the heath, would probably win acceptance, and a chorus of highwaymen with silk tights and crape masks would have every claim upon public sympathy except originality. To present seriously, however, a highwayman as indulging in a sentimental passion for a girl of family and position, and seeking at the same time to abduct her for the purpose of dividing her fortune with his associates, is to impose upon a modern and an educated public a task beyond its strength. No very great losers are playgoers by this incapacity. Strenuous efforts have been made by Mr. Buchanan to elevate the love story of Lucy Brandon and Paul Clifford. The task is, however, impossible. A man who lives by outraging the law, whose career of felony extends over the greater portion of his life, whose associates are drunken and debauched ruffians worse than himself, may possibly be redeemed by the love of a pure woman, and may make an edifying or a noble end. Against the notion of whitewashing him, however, of condoning his crimes on account of the influences which drove him first to their commission, and of wedding him to a lady whose utter degradation and ruin he has all but effected, is to offend at once common sense, morality, and political economy. No crime is committed for which, probably, an all-wise and all-seeing judge could not find some palliation, if he did not discern in it the direct and irrevocable outcome of existing conditions. We do not, however, on the strength of these things pardon our criminals. Against the difficulties of his self-imposed task Mr. Buchanan vainly struggles. Some of Lord Lytton’s characters he turns to good account, and one or two fairly strong situations are reached. The whole, however, like the complainings and the protestations of Paul Clifford, rings hollow. Miss Harriet Jay, who plays the heroine, displays a decided advance in style. Her comic method is excellent, and her appearance is attractive. Her pathos remains, however, a little hide-bound. Mr. Odell gives a very comic physiognomy to the personage of Augustus Tomlinson, and Mrs. Chippendale, Mr. David Fisher, and other actors play competently in other characters. The Paul Clifford of Mr. William Rignold is anything rather than satisfactory. What Mr. Rignold ought to make of a character of this kind is not easy to say. The character he presents is at least neither realizable nor sympathetic. A favourable reception was awarded “Lucy Brandon” by a holiday audience crowding the theatre in all parts.
The Stage (14 April, 1882 - p.9)
On Saturday afternoon, April 8, 1882, was produced here a new romantic and poetical drama, in four acts, by Robert Buchanan, entitled—
Sir William Brandon ............ Mr. Elmore.
Lady Pelham ............ Mrs. Chippendale.
Lucy Brandon ............ Miss Harriett Jay.
Lord Mauleverer ............ Mr. David Fisher.
Smoothson ............ Mr. Rayne.
Beau Bright ............ Mr. Parnell.
Paul Clifford ............ Mr. Wm. Rignold.
Ned Pepper ............ Mr. Thos. F. Nye.
Augustus Tomlinson ............ Mr. Odell.
Bagshot ............ Mr. Somerset.
Dummie Dannaker ............ Mr. Percy Bell.
Jenny ............ Miss Amy Trevelyan.
Turnkey ............ Mr. Tresehar.
Nabbem ............ Mr. Daniels.
Servant ............ Mr. Jones.
Mr. Robert Buchanan cannot, unfortunately, be congratulated on his latest dramatic work. “In this play,” he says, “an attempt has been made, for the first time, to elevate the subject, particularly so far as it concerns the love story of Lucy Brandon and Paul Clifford;” but in striving to elevate his subject the author has over-estimated his powers, and constructed a dull, uninteresting play, lacking strength and action, and possessing, instead, wearisome, insipid love passages. It may be presumed that the late Lord Lytton’s novel of “Paul Clifford,” which Mr. Buchanan has taken for the basis of his play, is fairly well known, therefore it is only necessary to state that the two first acts are occupied in showing us the growth of affection between Paul Clifford and the heroine; the third act presents us to the scene in which the highwaymen is arrested; and the last scene shows us his release from jail and probable union to the fair Lucy. There is no earthly reason why this story should be dragged out into four acts, nor is the attempt to justify the wrongdoings of a murderer and thief, because he had a father who did not do his duty to his wife and his son, at all in consonance with our way of thinking. Mr. Buchanan was unfortunate in the lady who represented his heroine, for no matter how well Miss Harriett Jay may dress on the stage, or how becoming she may look, this will not atone for her want of dramatic instinct. Mr. William Rignold did his best with the part of Paul Clifford, but failed to elicit our sympathy for the character, for the good reason that there is no sympathetic power in the part as Mr. Buchanan has given it to us. It is to be desired that Mr. Rignold would talk in at least an audible fashion, and without mouthing his words, if we may use the expression. Mrs. Chippendale, Mr. David Fisher, and Mr. Odell relieved the piece of a little of its dulness whenever they appeared, but none of the other characters were more than moderately well acted. All things considered, the piece was well mounted and dressed; but we are sorry that Mr. Buchanan’s friends were injudicious enough to call him before the curtain at the conclusion of his play.
The Era (15 April, 1882)
On Saturday Afternoon, April 8th,
by Robert Buchanan.
Sir William Brandon ............ Mr ELMORE
Lady Pelham ............ Mrs CHIPPENDALE
Lucy Brandon ............ Miss HARRIETT JAY
Lord Mauleverer ............ Mr DAVID FISHER
Smoothson ............ Mr RAYNE
Beau Bright ............ Mr PARNELL
Paul Clifford ............ Mr WM. RIGNOLD
Ned Pepper, called “long Ned” Mr THOS F. NYE
Augustus Tomlinson ............ Mr ODELL
Bagshot ............ Mr SOMERSET
Dummie Dunnaker ............ Mr PERCY BELL
Jenny ............ Miss AMY TREVELYAN
Turnkey ............ Mr TRESEHAR
Nabbom ............ Mr DANIELS
Servant ............ Mr JONES
With all the faults of Lucy Brandon taken into account, we much prefer it to The Shadow of the Sword, by the same author, for it has at least the advantage of a clear and to a certain extent an interesting plot. In taking Lord Lytton’s well- known story of “Paul Clifford” as the foundation for his four-act play, Mr Robert Buchanan tells his audience that it is his intention to elevate the subject, particularly so far as it concerns the love passages between Lucy Brandon and the hero. He further claims most of the situations, and all the dialogue, with the exception of a dozen lines, as his own. With all deference to Mr Buchanan, we cannot help thinking that he had better have made no allusion whatever to his method of treatment, but simple have placed the drama before the audience without comment; for, spite of the “elevation” which is supposed to be given, the real motive remains much the same as in the novel. Paul Clifford was an adventurer in the story, and he remains so in the play. He is far more delighted with the promise of success in a daring and reckless scheme than he is enthusiastic about reforming his own character. After all the real question is whether such a subject can be “elevated.” Lord Lytton himself says, in his preface to an edition published in 1848, “that ‘Paul Clifford’ was written at a very early age, and belongs to a literary era that is closed.” The romance of a highwayman’s career, even if the hero of it be the son of a distinguished man, has ceased to have the fascination such characters once had for the reading and playgoing public. At one time, for example, all London went crazy over “Jack Sheppard,” a hero we have discarded long ago. Therefore, the author of Lucy Brandon, spite of his efforts at “elevation,” could not count upon sympathy beforehand with the subject he had chosen. However, as matters stand, Lucy Brandon is not without merits, and those merits might have been greatly enhanced if the author made more of the heroine’s part earlier in the drama. As it is, he depends for the interest of the first act almost entirely on the attack made by Paul Clifford and his companion highwaymen, and the hero’s love at first sight for Lucy. The “knights of the road” are awaiting the carriage of Lord Mauleverer at Ambleton, on the old Bath road; and Paul, while anticipating the arrival of his comrades, has an accidental interview with Sir William Brandon. Presently the carriage comes on its way to Bath, where Lord Mauleverer is taking Miss Brandon. A great deal more might have been made of the scene of the robbery. The highwaymen do their work in a very spiritless manner, and thus the contrast between the rugged manners of some of the band and the more polished behaviour of Paul Clifford is lost. In the second act we find the highwaymen in disguise at the Grand Assembly Rooms, Bath; Augustus Tomlinson, one of the band, pretending to be a medical man, while Paul Clifford figures in military attire as Captain Lovett; Long Ned, another of these heroes, also appearing as an officer, but certainly not as a gentleman. The scenes in the second act are probably as good as any in the piece. The love scenes with the heroine, the impatient rivalry of Lord Mauleverer, who is about to propose to Lucy, the flirtation between Tomlinson and the Dowager Lady Pelham, and the impudent behaviour of the disguised highwaymen, all tended to supply amusement for the audience, and the curtain fell amidst hearty applause on this act. The third act takes place in the gardens of Lady Pelham, who has become quite fascinated with her pretended doctor. Clifford and Lucy are also rapidly becoming lovers, and the scene altogether is extremely like that in The Lady of Lyons where Claude Melnotte is masquerading as the Prince of Como. The pertinacity with which Clifford follows up his suit causes Lord Mauleverer to become passionately jealous, and the result is a quarrel. It is impossible to feel much sympathy for the hero in this scene, because, in the first place, he is willing to resort to the most detestable plans to effect his object, and consents that his companions shall rob the house and assist him to carry off the heroine. When he finds that Lucy, while admitting her affection for him, is unwilling to elope, he without hesitation, plays his old companions false. They, however, attempt to avenge themselves, and in the confusion, while they are carrying off Lady Pelham’s jewels, Long Ned fires at him and wounds him; and to make his discomfiture complete, he is arrested by an officer from Bow-street, sent for by Lord Mauleverer, who has been from the first suspicious of the party. In the last act Paul Clifford is a prisoner in the condemned cell at Newgate, where he learns that an appeal has been made to the King, supported by Lord Mauleverer, who, for Lucy’s sake, generously aids her endeavours to release him, and, in spite of the inflexible Sir William, the pardon is obtained and the lovers are made happy. The acting in Lucy Brandon is very unequal. It is rather unfortunate for Mr Wm. Rignold that the author has attempted to idealise the character of the hero, for it is precisely in the scenes where the drama comes nearest to the original that Mr Rignold is at his best. But he plays with zeal throughout, and, if he is not an ideal lover in the more tender scenes with Lucy, he is always an earnest one, and never wanting in energy. He has also greatly improved since the occasion of the first performance, when, as is too often the case with new productions, many of the performers are not perfect in their lines, and, as in this instance, not ready to take up their cues. Mr Rignold was also at some disadvantage owing to the rigidity of the heroine. Miss Harriett Jay has many qualifications for the character of Lucy Brandon; but there was a coldness in her style, especially in the earlier scenes, which to some extent marred the effect that might have been produced. In the closing situations she gained considerable applause. As Lady Pelham, Mrs Chippendale was particularly good. The flirtation with the sham doctor had the true comedy flavour; extremely funny, yet entirely natural. Mrs Chippendale’s admirable acting in her principal scenes helped more to “elevate” the subject than all the author had done. Mr Odell was very amusing as Tomlinson. Mr Thomas F. Nye realised the portrait sketch of Long Ned, but was rather more noisy and obstreperous than was absolutely necessary. Mr David Fisher was exactly suited as Lord Mauleverer. He played admirably. Mr Elmore as Sir William also acted well. Mr Percy Bell, although he had not much to do as Dummie, made his part a very distinct one, and his eccentric style gained applause in more than one instance. At the end of the play the author was called for, and bowed his acknowledgments. Lucy Brandon has many elements of attraction, and the playgoer, in taking a round of the Easter novelties, should certainly not omit a visit to the Imperial Theatre, the advantage to the suburban resident being that the drama ends at half-past five o’clock, a great improvement on the first occasion, when, owing to defective arrangements on the stage and in the auditorium, it was half-past six when the performance ended.
The Graphic (15 April, 1882)
Unfortunately, some other of the Easter novelties at our theatres have been less successful, and, we regret to have to add, deservedly so. Mr. Buchanan’s dramatic version of his novel, The Shadow of the Sword, brought out under that title at the OLYMPIC Theatre on Saturday evening, suffered no doubt in a more than common degree from the mechanical and other mishaps which commonly attend first performances at holiday time. Long “waits,” moreover, which spun out the representation till half-an-hour after midnight, fairly exhausted the patience of the spectators, a large proportion of whom had left the house before the final fall of the curtain. With all allowance for these untoward circumstances, it must be confessed that the causes of the signal failure of this piece lay deeper. The original story is that of a young Frenchman, who refuses to fight for Napoleon, and, being drawn in a conscription, becomes a hunted fugitive, until the return of the Bourbons puts an end to his troubles. Though the hero’s conduct is open to question on patriotic and moral grounds, his adventures undoubtedly afford scope for dramatic treatment; but the author is somewhat wanting in the art which playwrights certainly inferior to him in poetical genius and creative power are often able to display; and his conduct of the story on the stage is confused and wanting in dramatic grasp.
Faults of a different, but equally serious kind, were unhappily discernible in another play by Mr. Buchanan, produced in the afternoon of the same day at the IMPERIAL Theatre. This play, entitled Lucy Brandon, is an adaptation of the late Lord Lytton’s “Paul Clifford;” but in the task of transferring the novel to the stage the adaptor has contrived to eliminate those elements which gave a relief, however superficial and sophistical, to the career of the criminal hero; and has thus presented us with nothing but the adventures of a contemptible scoundrel, who robs on the highway, and wins the affections of a pure-minded young lady by false pretences, without any better excuse than his frequent reference to a neglected childhood. Neglected as he may have been, Mr. Buchanan’s Paul Clifford, in the robust and mature person of Mr. William Rignold, is too obviously intelligent enough, and, as folks say, old enough, to know better. Hence his excuses, together with his occasional evanescent fits of remorse when reminded of his dead mother, produce the very reverse of the effect which the dramatist appears to have expected. The climax of absurdity seems to be reached when a pardon is obtained for this graceless ruffian by a rich peer, who crowns the act by handing over his late bride-elect, a young heiress, with an enormous fortune, to the highwayman who had but lately plundered him on the highway, and all this with the full approbation of her aristocratic guardian. Miss Harriett Jay, a young lady of pleasing person and some talents as an actress, essays in vain to inspire interest in the character of the young heiress referred to, who is indeed a wayward and ill-regulated person, utterly unworthy of the sympathy of right-minded spectators.
The Athenæum (15 April, 1882 - No. 2842, p.484)
COURT.—‘The Parvenu,’ a Three-Act Comedy. By G. W. Godfrey.
ROYALTY.—‘Not Regustered,’ a Domestic Drama, in Two Acts.
By Arthur Matthison.—‘Sinbad,’ a Burlesque. By Frank H. Green.
OLYMPIC.—‘The Shadow of the Sword,’ a Dramatic Romance,
in Five Acts. By Robert Buchanan.
IMPERIAL (Morning Performance).—‘Lucy Brandon,’ a
Romantic and Poetical Drama, in Four Acts and Five Tableaux.
By Robert Buchanan.
Very moderate success has attended the dramatic ventures made by Mr. Robert Buchanan at two separate theatres. In one case failure sprang from causes beyond the author’s control. What may be the merits of ‘The Shadow of the Sword’ cannot be said. The play was thrust on the stage in a state of unpreparedness such as had not recently been seen. No drama ever written could struggle against a series of misfortunes such as befell the piece which on Saturday night and Sunday morning wearied out at the Olympic the most patient of holiday audiences. Weaknesses, which Mr. Buchanan’s experience should teach him to correct, asserted themselves, however, through the general collapse. Songs and dances were introduced without rhyme or reason, and served no purpose but to spin out a piece already too long. To a good play song and dance, unless they serve some distinctly dramatic end, are an impediment; to a bad play they are no support. It is easy, however, to imagine that some of the music introduced was, like a portion of the dialogue, intended as a mere stop-gap. It would be an insult to Mr. Buchanan’s intelligence to assign to him much of the dialogue delivered amidst the ruins of Carnac. Not much more fortunate than was the author were the actors. Mr. Coleman, who played the principal character, had to remain extended on the ground, supposedly asleep, and wait for visions that would not and did not come. Napoleon and the Grand Army on its retreat from Leipzig were supposed to present themselves in the clouds and to be succeeded by an apparition of the Destroying Angel. All that was seen, however, was the ascent and descent of curtains representing mist and the erratic play of limelight. Between the acts, meanwhile, the pauses were so long that the intervals of many weeks or months mentioned in the playbills seemed to be taken by the management in earnest.
‘Lucy Brandon’ errs chiefly in the selection of a subject. Sanguine indeed must Mr. Buchanan have been in hoping to render acceptable to a modern public a character like Paul Clifford. Knights of the road have faded into a distance so remote that the public can no longer affect an interest in them. Bulwer’s hero, meanwhile, is one of the weakest, most whining, and least edifying ruffians of his class. In writing ‘Paul Clifford’ Lord Lytton chose to show his capacity to supply a kind of work then in fashion. The book, however, never hit public taste as did the ‘Rookwood’ of a less brilliant novelist. Mr. Buchanan has taken pains to elevate the character of Paul Clifford and bring it nearer to our sympathies. But slight success attends the effort, and the highwayman remains despicable. The physiognomies of some of Paul Clifford’s associates are preserved: Augustus Tomlinson especially retains a portion of that comic humour which distinguishes him in the novel. Mr. Buchanan has, however, been fortunate in his exponent, Mr. Odell, to whom the part is assigned, communicating to it all possible drollery. Miss Harriett Jay plays with vivacity and some comic power as the heroine. Her method in the stronger scenes remains faulty, or rather incomplete. The less important characters find fair expositors, but little in the interpretation calls for comment.
The Illustrated London News (15 April, 1882 - p.8)
Before Mr. Robert Buchanan devoted himself to the task of “elevating” the love story of Paul Clifford and Lucy Brandon, and attempted to enlist our sympathies once more on behalf of Mr. Bulwer Lytton’s fashionable highwayman, the subject had been pretty well exhausted on the minor stage. So far back as March 19, 1832, Mr. Benjamin Webster produced at the Coburg Theatre “Paul Clifford, the Highwayman of 1770,” one of those dramas interspersed with music that were fashionable in those days. It was a strange mixture of slang and sensation, and contained an escape from Bridewell and a trial in open court, in which Paul addresses the jury at some length, but is eventually condemned to death by his own father. Mr. Webster played Augustus Tomlinson, the philosophical highwayman, Mr. Serle was Paul Clifford, and Mrs. Weston made much of a celebrated character, Mrs. Margaret Lobkins, alias Peggy Lobb, the landlady of the Mug. Amongst the songs of this old Coburg version I find the celebrated one set to one of Moore’s melodies, beginning—
A temple to Cupid said Flora enchanted
I’ll build in the garden, the thought is divine.
But the orthodox musical version of Paul Clifford was by Edward Fitzball, and, produced at Covent Garden in 1835, with Mr. Vale, Mr. Tilbury, and Mr. Collins in the cast. In this drama occur the celebrated song “Hurrah! for the Road!” and a truly Fitzballian ballad with this inimitable introduction—
I saw him but once—I saw him in sorrow,
It scarcely appeared as we ever had met,
He spoke not, he gazed not, ’twas only a sigh;
But oh! ’twas a sigh I shall never forget!
It seems a pity that Mr. Robert Buchanan with all his characteristic vigour and love of spirited effect should have devoted so much time to the elevation of the character of this rascally highwayman, who might have been left to sleep in peace with the Hinds, Duvals, Turpins, Jack Sheppards, and Macheaths of another age. It would take too long a time to discuss the moral turpitude of the scoundrels who have been immortalised by Gay, Harrison Ainsworth, and Bulwer Lytton; but there is something very distasteful in the “elevated” hero, who, after a career of unblushing profligacy, tries to persuade us that he might have been a good fellow if his father had not ruined and deserted his mother. In Mr. Benjamin Webster’s play it was the unjust conviction of Paul Clifford by Mr. Brandon, and his subsequent imprisonment, that started his vicious career. This is at least intelligible. Most of the humour formerly conveyed by Dummie Dunnaker, and all the flash coves and thieves’ associates having disappeared, the new play is merely a concentrated essence of dull decorum, containing love scenes without inspiration, and comic scenes unrelieved by humour. The new Paul Clifford is certainly not a vulgar play, as it was in 1832; but it is certainly a dull one as acted at the Imperial Theatre at Westminster. Mr. W. Rignold has not the manner for the highwayman Paul; nor has Miss Harriett Jay quite the experience or power requisite for so important and isolated a character as Lucy Brandon. This young lady has a charming presence, however, and evident intelligence. The rest will come. Mr. Buchanan deserves pity in that his play was not ready for production, in addition to the important fact that it was not cast with judgment; but from what I could hear of the play as it stands it did not strike me as being suitable to the temper of the audiences of to-day. Rarely indeed have poetical periods been so mangled on the stage. For the sake of elocution, the sooner we have a dramatic school the better. Actors and actresses can study with facility; but how few of them can deliver words with point and propriety. In the old days artists were said to mouth, but now they mumble.
I have had no opportunity at present of witnessing Mr. Buchanan’s “Shadow of the Sword,” at the Olympic, a play beset with misfortune on its first representation; or the new plays at the Standard, Sadler’s Wells, and the Philharmonic; or, indeed, of enjoying a laugh over the Easter programme put forward by the Moore and Burgess Minstrels at the St. James’s Hall. But I hope to repair the omission next week; unless before that time my respected “leader,” whose initials are so familiar to you, has ended his holiday, and recrossed the “silver streak” for home again.
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (15 April, 1882 - p.9)
Judged as a literary production, Mr. Robert Buchanan’s “Lucy Brandon” is quite as disappointing as his Olympic piece. Its dialogue in its first two acts is miserably commonplace, and when, in the third, the hero is allowed to talk poetry, the blank verse seems oddly out of place. Mr. Buchanan’s hero here is a highwayman, whose exploits have been described for us by the late Lord Lytton and already illustrated on the stage. Paul Clifford, as now set before us, is certainly the most sentimental creature that ever robbed a coach or schemed to abduct an heiress. He falls in love with Lucy Brandon, his intended victim; but that is not all. He is given at the oddest moments to confidences about his dead mother and his grievances against society; he wants us to pity rather than to fear him. Unluckily we are inclined to do neither, but to laugh at his maudlin talk and despise his false excuses for his misconduct.
Just before abducting Miss Brandon—whom he professes to love—he repents of his purpose and betrays his companions to her; and it seems to us to serve him right when one of them shoots him, and facilitates his capture by the Bow-street officers, who are on his track. Of course he escapes from prison and flies to the girl whom he had formerly meant to be his victim. After much sentimental gush he is discovered to be son of the judge by whom he was sentenced; he receives, for no obvious reason, a Royal pardon, and is left by a singular perversion of poetic and other justice to marry the lady of his choice.
This is the outline of a very thin and conventional melodrama of the old-fashioned type. Its details include only one noteworthy scene in which one of Clifford’s allies lays siege to the heart of a foolish old woman, with a view to theft. This scene is amusingly played by Mr. Odell, as the quasi-respectable highwayman, and Mrs. Chippendale, as the silly spinster, Lady Pelham. Another capable sketch is Mr. Percy Bell’s Dummie Dunnaker, the robbers’ faithful factotum. Mr. W. Rignold cannot manage the sentimental side of Paul Clifford’s character, and small blame to him for the failure. Miss Harriet Jay as Lucy Brandon is ladylike and nothing more. She has not progressed in her art as we should have expected, but would probably do better if she were not asked to “create” characters in Mr. Buchanan’s somewhat impracticable plays.
Birmingham Daily Post (17 April, 1882)
When Mr. Robert Buchanan leaves the poetic to wander among other fields of literature, he is not invariably as great a success as his talents would lead one to anticipate. Within the past few days he has essayed once more to storm the London stage, but though it would be cruel to brand both his latest dramatic efforts with the harsh word “failure,” it would be untrue to say that either is a success. One so well versed in the ways of the world as Mr. Buchanan ought by this time to have known that the “gallant highwayman” is no longer fit food for playgoers, save as the hero of opera bouffe or burlesque; and the attempt to elevate “Paul Clifford;” and to make the stilted novel of the late Lord Lytton the basis of a moral drama, must be pronounced a mistake. Very little more success attended Mr. Buchanan’s own play, “The Shadow of the Sword.”
The Era (Saturday, 22 April, 1882 - p.12)